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we're in palm desert, california, where former presidents and first ladies, dignitaries, friends, family and citizens were invited to gather here and celebrate the life of a giant of an american life, betty ford. also tonight, our exclusive interview with the nation's newest medal of honor recipient. >>and ann curry in new york with the other stories. >> that's right. heatwave. dangerously hot temperatures impacting more than half the nation as millions are sweating it out and many are asking, why is there so much extreme weather these days. and crunch time, a warning shot from the president to american who is rely on monthly social security checks.
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will it force a deal in those talks in washington? "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. i'm ann curry. our nation suffers a massive and dangerous heatwave. extreme heat is affecting 24 states. it has no less than half of a u.s. population, that's 124 million people, are under a heat advisory tonight. more than 26 million of them are enduring excessive heat. nbc's mara is sweating it out. mara? >> reporter: it's not just the heat. it's the humidity. here in st. louis, temperatures reached 102 degrees but it felt like 115. that's happening all across the country and it's not just uncomfortable, it's downright dangerous with the heat being blamed for at least six deaths
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so far. it's the summer sizzle that just won't stop. >> good afternoon, everyone. it's hot. >> reporter: but this heat just continuing to stay right over us. heat advisory in effect across most of oklahoma. half of the country is broiling under a scorching sun with no immediate relief in sight. in oklahoma city, each new day is as bad as the last, with almost two straight weeks of triple-digit heat. dallas topped 100 degrees for 11 days in a row. high school football players working to stay hydrated. >> if it's not hot it's not st. louis. >> reporter: and in the gateway city, these residents knew it would be another scorcher. >> as soon as you walk out you know it's going to be one of those days. >> reporter: in many cases the heat is adding insult to injury, causing drought conditions to intensify in the south and creep up to mid-atlantic states. monday morning in chicago, summer thunderstorms knocked out power to almost a million people at a time when air conditioning
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can be critical. now, the east coast is starting to feel the heat. advisories have been issued from georgia to connecticut, with temperatures feeling like 105 degrees. in new york city, some were dressed for the weather. >> i was in las vegas last week and it was 117. so 95 is -- >> reporter: others looked like they just might melt. >> you have a cooling fan in there? >> reporter: but the heatwave is more than just uncomfortable. it's dangerous. >> the elderly and infants are at significantly increased risk for developing heat illness, as are many people on certain medications. >> reporter: the hottest place in the country today, owensboro, kentucky, where heat index was a staggering 123 degrees and for many of these hot spots there's no relief any time soon. anne? >> thank you so much. weather channel
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meteorologist chris warren joins us now. chris, with 677 tornados in april alone this is the deadliest year since 1936, not to mention these floods and this heatwave. what explain this is, chris? >> anne, during the springtime, we were stuck in a very active spring pattern. now that it's summer we're stuck in an active and persistent summer pattern with a big ridge of high pressure entrenched over the middle part of the country. the good news is we have relief on the way for the northeast by the end of the week. the jet stream and cooler air comes in from the north. however, by the time we head into the weekend that heat, the 90s and the triple digits, building back into the northern plains so no relief in sight at all for much of the south, in particular, the southern plains and, anne, keep in mind we're coming up on what's typically the hottest time of the year and that's july. >> thanks for the warning.
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in washington, where the prospect of a major deal on raising the debt ceiling and fix the country's budget problems seems to be slipping away. chief white house correspondent chuck todd now joins us. chuck? >> reporter: anne, it wasn't the heat, it was the debt ceiling here in washington. lots of heated rhetoric. it got ugly and even a bizarre proposal in congress that could be a back doorway to solve the crisis. here's the independent an interview with cbs about social security checks. >> i cannot guarantee that those checks go out on august 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue because there may simply not be the money in the coffers. >> but a meeting just ended with those congressional leaders here at the white house and they have opened their minds up to this back-up plan idea. it came from the mind of mitch mcconnell, the senate republican leader which essentially would create instead of a vote of approval on debt ceiling, it would become a vote of disapproval to stop it. it's odd, but everybody seems
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signed on to it. it's the new backup plan, anne. >> chuck todd in washington. thanks so much for your reporting on the story. now let's turn to the phone hacking scandal in britain where each day brings fresh revelations. tonight, scotland yard's lead investigator says there may be as many as 4,000 victims in the case against rupert murdoch's media empire and among them, former prime minister gordon brown who says his family's privacy was violated by a story that hit very close to home. stephanie goss has the report from london. >> reporter: the british public wants answers. rupert murdoch and top executive, rebecca brooks have all been asked to testify next week before a parliament committee. the powerful trio have yet to agree but "news international" the subsidiary that ran "the news of the world" is already defending itself against the latest allegations. in an interview on the bbc today, former prime minister,
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gordon brown, accused "news international" of employing known criminals to dig up personal information. >> i'm shocked. i'm genuinely shocked to find this happened because of the links with criminals. >> reporter: in 2006, a murdoch paper run at the time by rebecca brooks reported that brown's newborn son has cystic fibrosis. now brown questions the methods the paper used to get that information. tonight a statement from "news international" says the story the su "the sun" ran is from a member of the family that also had cystic fibrosis. some members of scotland yards say police accepted bribes from reporters. >> an organization of 50,000 people and we've always said from time, some day they'll -- >> reporter: with the investigation widening daily here in the uk, some are wondering if the scandal will
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spread to murdoch's media holdings in the u.s. >> we need to find out, affirmatively, look into whether or not american citizens had their phones hacked into by any murdoch journalists. >> reporter: for now the only evidence is here in britain but proving to be enough to tarnish the image of a worldwide media empire. stephanie goss, nbc news, london. in afghanistan tonight a lot of unanswered questions about the shocking assassination of president hamid karzai's half-brother. shot in cold blood at his home by a trusted associate. we have the story from kabul. >> reporter: hi, anne. am ahmed wali karzai, he was lured out of a meeting and shot in cold blood. he was shot and killed by other security guards. the taliban have claimed
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responsibility saying they had been working with the killer for, quote, some time." awk was an infamous power broker in kandahar province, a key province and the spiritual home of the taliban and considered to be a part of the drug trade but u.s. and nato officials say they needed him, a stabilizing figure and an otherwise unstable region. his death leaves behind a power vacuum and is considered a big victory for the taliban, anne? >> thank you so much. another milestone up in space today as two residents of the international space station stepped outside to retrieve a broken ammonia pump so it could be returned to earth for examination. it was the final space walk of the american shuttle era. meantime, the landing plan for the atlantis has changed and it's now scheduled to touch down before dawn on july 21st at the kennedy space center. poignant moments in palm desert, california, where represents of the current and six previous first families attended a memorial service for
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betty ford, who died friday at the age of 93. our own brian williams is there and we'll hear from him in a bit. but nbc's lee cowan joins us, lee? >> reporter: hey, anne. this is the first of two tributes in two different states for betty ford and in keeping with her very take-charge attitude she was very specific about how she wanted to be remeered. to that end, both politics and her passion for people were front and center. >> reporter: for a first lady admired for being so public, betty ford's final trip up the steps of the church where she worshipped for more than 30 years was ever so private. ♪ preceded by her four children her casket made its way up the aisle in st. margaret's episcopal church. >> we remember before you this day our sister, betty. >> reporter: the largest gathering of first ladies since
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then. michelle obama and hillary clinton. rosalind carter and nancy reagan, who was escorted by president george w. bush. but it was rosalind carter, once a political rival then long-time family friend who, perhaps, summed her up best. >> someone who was willing to do things a bit differently than they had been done before. someone who had the courage and grace to fight fear, stigma and prejudice wherever she encountered it. >> reporter: betty ford instructed journalist kokie roberts not to just you'll guise her life but the way politics used to be. >> i wouldn't be at all surprised if she timed her death to make sure that she could convey the message of comedy during this week when it seems so badly needed. >> reporter: but of all her accomplishments, the betty ford center remangs, perhaps, her biggest legacy. and tonight those on its board gave her credit for saving millions. >> if you can do it, all the
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pressures on you every day, well, in the white house, for goodness sake, living with the leader of the free world, maybe we could also get some relief. >> reporter: the nation's 40th first lady remains an inspiration to a nation she shared both her triumphs and her struggles. and the public will be able to pay their respects to betty ford tonight. her body is lying in repose until midnight tonight at the church and tomorrow her body will be flown to michigan where she'll be buried next to her husband at the gerald ford library in grand rapids. >> lee, thank you very much. brian williams when we come back, from the memorial service with reflections on this day. and later, his exclusive interview with today's recipients of the medal of honor. an oerm ranger who put his life on the line for his brothers in arms. she needs help from me. and her medication. the exelon patch -- it releases medication continuously
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it was a longshot but he took it. a marine serving in afghanistan needed a date for the marine corps ball so on a bet with a fellow marine, he made a youtube video and asked his favorite actress, mila kunis to go with him. miss could you nis is mulling the offer although she may have a conflict. i always thought i had a chance, said sergeant scott moore, and sometimes, he said, that's all you need. the name sherwood schwartz and "the brady bunch" a culture of the americans who grew up in the '60s and '70s. he started out in radio writing jokes for bob hope and red skeleton and found sitcom and mortality on television. critics panned his shows but audiences loved them. "gilligan's island" lasted four seasons and so did "the brady
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bunch." both live on in memories and reruns. sherwood schwartz died today in los angeles. he was 94 years old. when we come back, brian williams joins us from the memorial service for betty ford. copd makes it hard to breathe, so i wasn't playing much of a role in my own life, but with advair, i'm breathing better so now i can take the lead on a science adventure. advair is clinically proven to help significantly improve lung function. unlike most copd medications, advair contains both an anti-inflammatory and a long-acting bronchodilator, working together to help improve your lung function all day. advair won't replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms and should not be used more than twice a day. people with copd taking advair may have a higher chance of pneumonia. advair may increase your risk of osteoporosis and some eye problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure
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we thought that brian williams would be able to join us right now from betty ford's memorial service and apparently the service is still going on so we have lee cowan rejoining us now. he's been watching it all unfold. lee, what more can you tell us? >> reporter: as you said, brian is one of the invited guests and he's still in there as they're waiting for guests to file out. i think what anybody was really struck with by watching the service is you hear so much about her candor and her honesty as being her calling card. that really was, i think, the center point of this entire service today. and i think so many people talked about not only the kinds of people that she influenced when she was the first lady,
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especially women, but i think there was a just as much of what she did after getting out of the white house. and those people that so many that she helped, whether it was at the betty ford clinic or in her partnershipst with rosalind carter. it was somebody who took the office well beyond what a lot of people had previously. and i think it was that political partnership that was also highlighted so much today, ann. the sense that there was a time in washington where people were political enemies and were political foes but not necessarily enemies and i think you saw that in almost every person that commented about just her spirit, the way she approached her office. the way she approached her support for gerald ford when he was president. and the way she supported all the people who came to rely on her and the betty ford center for help in treating their addiction. that's what everyone takes away at the end of the day is she was someone who cared much more for other people and her family than she did for herself. >> lee, she was such a similar
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bog, especially for women, of strength as well as admitting your frailties and the strength that can come from that. thank you so much. lee cowan tonight with his report. when we come back, brian's interview with an american soldier who the president said today, has the stuff heroes are made of. ugh, my feet are killin' me. well, we're here to get you custom orthotic inserts. dr. scholl's custom fit orthotic center recommends the custom-fit orthotic that's best for your tired feet. foot-care scientists are behind it. you'll get all-day relief. for your tired achy feet. for locations, see thank you...
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that's how it is with alzheimer's disease. she needs help from me. and her medication. the exelon patch -- it releases medication continuously for twenty-four hours. she uses one exelon patch daily for the treatment of mild to moderate alzheimer's symptoms. [ female announcer ] it cannot change the course of the disease. hospitalization and rarely death have been reported in patients who wore more than one patch at a time. the most common side effects of exelon patch are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. the likelihood and severity of these side effects may increase as the dose increases. patients may experience loss of appetite or weight. patients who weigh less than 110 pounds may experience more side effects. people at risk for stomach ulcers who take certain other medicines should talk to their doctor because serious stomach problems such as bleeding may worsen. people with certain heart conditions may experience slow heart rate. [ woman ] whenever i needed her, she was there for me. now i'm here for her. [ female announcer ] ask the doctor about your loved one trying the exelon patch. visit to learn more.
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tonight, america has a new medal of honor recipient, sergeant first class leroy arthur petry. who after receiving the highest military honor from president obama today said he's humbled to be singled out. brian has a exclusive interview with one of the brave. >> reporter: ann, that's right. leroy petry wanted to be a soldier growing up in new mexico and he succeeded. u.s. army ranger, six tours of duty in afghanistan. two in iraq. we sat down in washington with him a few weeks back for an exclusive interview prior to him receiving the medal of honor. it was for an action in afghanistan in a courtyard in the middle of a firefight. a grenade lands next to him and his young soldiers and he did what instinct told him to do, picked up the grenade, threw it and lost his hand and part of
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his arm as a result. as you'll see, he has the modesty that all of the 85 living recipients of this medal possess. >> i remember it vividly. i sat up, i grabbed it and it was like somebody had taken a circular saw and just taken it off right there and i remember the smells. i could smell the burning of the flesh. it was unreal. but, again, another weird thought went into my mind. i looked at it and i said, where's the hollywood square. why isn't this thing spraying out a country mile. >> you've seen your share of movies? >> oh, yeah. the next thing that kicked in was reality and my training. got to get thunder control. i grabbed a tourno keechltquet.
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and then i checked on my guys. had that gone off it would have been a different story. you or them. anybody calls this a ticket home. a ticket home. in my experience, with guys like you, it's a bummer because guys wired like you want to stay in the fight. >> yes. >> was that your situation? >> that was one of. hardest part. one of the first sergeants that was with us who was on the ground he said, hey, come on, we're going to get you out of a here. and i said, you're not taking me anywhere until you get the s.o.b.s. i didn't want to see another casualty. we lost a guy that day, christopher gaitheco. he was coming there to help us and i felt helpless because i
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couldn't stay with him. everybody was cheering me on saying -- hey, you're going to be all right. they're saying, hey you saved us. don't worry about it. it was tough. >> reporter: were you right handed? >> i was. that was the challenge, writing left-handed. but my son, who was 5 at the time -- >> you probably have the same penmanship. >> he was getting ready for kindergarten so i was doing it with him. our abcs and stuff. >> so when people approach you and people stick out their hand and shake your hand do you say -- it's okay. >> no. i enjoy that part. i don't tell people. if they don't notice it and then they grab it and they're like -- i like the jump i get out of them. everyone says, how do you have such a great attitude? and a lot of people i've met that were wounded, they have great attitudes, too, but at the same time, a lot of these men
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and women, their limbs or their bodies are hurt or severed, whatever. they have their bodies stolen from them, almost. driving down the road and they don't see the enemy. it's just -- you wake up or you're laying there and you're disfigured now and -- i had the choice to do what i did and fully mentally knowing about what the dangers were. and it was just my choice. >> reporter: u.s. army ranger sergeant first class leroy arthur petry, nation's newest living recipient of the medal of honor. back to you, ann, in new york. >> thank you so much. that's our broadcast for this tuesday evening. from all of us here at nbc news, thank you and good night.
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